I’ve nurtured a superstitious theory for a while now, that if you get keyed in to books throughly enough – if you stay "plugged in" (as it were) to the options available to you as a reader, whether past classics or current great reads – if you have a source of input on new (to you) books, whether it be a reading group, a librarian who shares your interests, or the internets – then, if you are open to what’s out there, the world will provide you with the proper read for your current circumstances. It was true with our last child – postpartum was difficult, to put it mildly, and we struggled for months with everything. That difficult time brought me Cloud Atlas, one of my favoritist reads ever, and anytime I read that I was – cliche alert – transported away from everything, refreshed, renewed. For me, it was storytelling at its best, and I have a clear memory of the night I finished it, sitting in my daughter’s darkened room – she’d finally gone to sleep, and I’d finally gotten her into the crib without waking her up again, and I knew that my wife was okay for the time being, but that going downstairs meant dishes, laundry, overflowing Diaper Champ, chaos, so I sat there by the night light and finished it.
The second child is, as acquaintances with children (and childless) have advised, quite different. Better in that we know a little bit more about what we’re doing, but this time it’s more about management. What’s the older daughter doing? What can I do with her to spend some time with her that won’t turn into a spiral of activity – normally wonderful, but there’s a lot to consider right now – so that she knows she’s loved, and with a bare minimum of brain-deadening television? Are the baby accoutrements we need (use your imagination) prepared? Creams, ointments, powders, glasses of water with straws, fresh bedding, enough dishes clean to cobble together a meal, diapers, charting when she poops, is there enough half and half, do the chickens need fresh water, did the oldest feed the cat, etc.
So, again, saying something about Remainder without saying much at all (I feel right now like this is one of those books that I’m out of my league in writing about; I don’t know how it turns out, despite the few reviews I’ve looked at through my fingers with my hands over my face that suggest the end, "you can kind of see it coming" – ) – this, like Cloud Atlas, has been like a touchstone of relief. And I don’t have time to delineate all the ways Cloud Atlas fit for me with the first child, much less try to do the same with a book I haven’t yet finished, writing during one of those brief moments of quiet here. But there’s a fair amount of management of circumstances, re-enacting of motions toward making those motions more real (I’m sorry, this may not be making much sense) that appeals to me as I’m going through the same few motions over and over that come from not working, staying home and focusing only on taking care of family. The narrator of the book is seeing relief, and I’m not – mainly because I can read his efforts.